ERIC Number: ED284277
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1987-Aug
Reference Count: 0
Investigative Journalism and the Legitimation of Moral Order.
Glasser, Theodore L.; Ettema, James S.
Investigative journalists long have had an adversarial relationship with powerful institutions and those in public office, stemming from the "righteously indignant" reporters of the early nineteenth century penny presses who guarded the interests of the public. Currently, investigative journalists are in a difficult position if they have to report news of moral transgressions, while remaining morally neutral. When documenting transgressions, they tend to circumvent the problem by (1) citing the law, (2) citing codes of conduct, (3) citing experts, or (4) appealing to common sense. Yet all news, how objective it purports to be on its "surface level" is inherently linked to morals because the subject(s) of the story have crossed some moral boundary, identified by the reporter. Hence reporters in their role as "watchdogs" not only reflect the moral norms of society but actively fashion and legitimate the very consensus they ostensibly only convey. However, because investigative journalists select from a limited range of dominant moral standards, accept these standards uncritically, and present them "objectively," they can evade responsibility for contributing to the definition and legitimation of what usually appears to be an "independent" moral order. The values journalists espouse in the "deep level" of their stories only become apparent in a historical and cultural treatment of news. (Seven endnotes and 46 references are included.) (JC)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Investigative Reporting; Journalism History; Journalists; Media Bias; Press Role
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (70th, San Antonio, TX, August 1-4, 1987).